“They want the creature comforts of home wherever they are,” says Scott Durkin, president and CEO of Douglas Elliman Real Estate.
Where they buy depends on “where they are geographically” and “what their motivation is,” says Michael Valdes, global vice president of international servicing at Sotheby’s International Realty Affiliates LLC, which has 960 offices in 72 countries worldwide.
Some chase the sun in the Turks and Caicos or look to retire in picturesque San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. Others seek a second citizenship or a place where they have a work connection or “a kinship.” Value hunters search Prague or Buenos Aires for the “amazing number of architectural gems available at a reasonable price,” Valdes adds.
What the mansion collectors also covet is safety. Security plays an ever-larger role in choosing where to buy that second, third, or fourth well-appointed, amenity-rich home, bolstering enviable—and safe—destinations like St. Barts, Portugal, Ireland, and New Zealand.
In the two years since Madonna purchased an $8.9 million hilltop 18th-century Moorish Revival mansion outside Lisbon, prices in Portugal have risen 30 percent. Demand remains strong for the Portuguese capital and Cascais, a fishing town with extraordinary seaside architecture. “Ranking high up there is safety and a place a bit off the beaten path,” Valdes says.
One of the biggest draws to chic St. Barts “is the safety of the island,” says Zarek Honneysett, sales manager and partner at Sibarth Real Estate, an affiliate of Christie’s International Real Estate on the tiny Caribbean island. “There is no major crime.”
Celebrities and CEOs of Fortune 500 companies also enjoy St. Barts’s white beaches, divine restaurants, haute shops like Hermès, and water sports. After vacationing on the island a few times, “they fall in love,” Honneysett says. “It’s the coup de coeur. It’s an emotional purchase in St. Barts.” Paradise and privacy can be found in an $18 million hillside villa with dark wood-plank ceilings, an infinity pool, and a tennis court on three tropical acres with sweeping ocean views.
Ireland is also “a safe haven” for wealthy buyers, says Roseanne De Vere Hunt, a director of Sherry FitzGerald Country Homes, Farms, and Estates, an affiliate of Christie’s. They opt for 10,000- to 15,000-square-foot restored Georgian or Victorian manors like Seafield House, an $11 million, eight-bedroom 1730s Palladian mansion with a striking Italianate tower in its 1857 west wing. Nine miles from downtown Dublin, its 80 acres encompass stables, gardens, forests, a lake, and a gatehouse. “The quality is fabulous,” Hunt says. “They come to switch off and get away from their work lives and relax in the privacy that they have.”
On the resort island of Phuket, Thailand, the luxury market is robust. Distinctive beachfront villas like the Iniala Beach House, the $23.6 million, 10-bedroom contemporary residence/boutique hotel with iconic Thai curved roofs where the Kardashians vacationed and filmed their show, attract seasoned travelers and expats living in Hong Kong and Singapore who are seeking a holiday home, said Tim Skevington, the chief executive of Richmont’s Luxury Real Estate, an affiliate of Christie’s International Real Estate. In Bangkok, international buyers opt for condos in the Ritz-Carlton and new Four Seasons residences as their Thailand base, wanting a home to call their own, yet drawn, Skevington says, by “all the hotel services at their beck and call.”